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Opinion That was the funniest and best thing DeSantis and Musk have ever done

This illustration photo shows the live Twitter talk between Elon Musk and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) displayed on a phone on Wednesday. (Pedro Ugarte/AFP/Getty Images)
4 min

This was the funniest thing Elon Musk has ever done.

Imagine that you are transported to the most awkward telemeeting of your life. And then imagine it is being broadcast to a half-million or so people, a number that keeps causing the meeting app to implode, until the crowd finally dwindles and gives up, and when the meeting finally restarts in another spot, you are left with a fraction of the original attendees.

And now imagine you are Ron DeSantis and this is your presidential campaign announcement.

Calling Wednesday night’s event “the most awkward telemeeting of your life” does not do the awkwardness justice. It was one of those calls where you both keep talking at the same time and then stopping. It was a butt dial from your mother. It was the voice broadcast equivalent of a car spontaneously bursting into flames — something with which I guess co-host Musk has some experience.

I still am not doing it justice. The awkwardness lasted about 20 minutes.

First there were several long minutes of silence. Then came the microphone feedback. Then there were some murmurs about the need to get started. More silence. Then came a routine, uninspiring introduction from a man named David. Then, mid-sentence, sudden silence. This failure repeated. And then, after more disjointed muttering, there came the hold music. Hold music! Then the hold music stopped. Bringing us ... more silence.

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“All right, great, looks like we’re ready to go here. [Unintelligible],” then another minute of silence, then “I’d like to welcome Governor DeSantis for this historic ... We’re just trying, just trying to get it going, ’cause it’s ... there’s so many people.” Then about 20 more seconds of silence, and then ... it ended, to resume at another, different place that hundreds of thousands of people were not able — or simply decided not to bother — to find.

That is to say, THE IDEAL PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN LAUNCH! Peak performance! Nothing about this was bad. Objectively. I cannot think of a better way to launch any kind of campaign, short of crashing through a window wearing only a bathrobe (on fire) and immediately being swallowed by an alligator. Well, maybe you could also be suing Disney for unclear reasons.

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Start as you mean to go on, they say! I certainly hope this is how the DeSantis campaign means to go on.

Not since the Titanic — but the Titanic at least had a successful launch. Ditto, the Hindenburg. They had other problems.

The actual launch, when it resumed, was — as usual with Ron DeSantis things — dull and frightening in equal measure, a talk-radio tirade promising a “coolheaded, ruthless assassin” (their compliment, not mine) who would take on the “woke mob” by “leaning into issues and making an impact.” Thrilling! Chilling! Chevron deference (and the need to do away with it!) was touched on. DeSantis reassured us that the book bans he has been getting so much bad publicity about are not literally book bans, just efforts to remove books that people had problems with. Just the kind of narrowly tailored AM radio conspiracy ranting you like to hear from someone running to be president of the entire country!

It truly felt as though DeSantis had forgotten that people outside his echo chamber exist. And maybe, in his America, they won’t! But first he treated us to an actual echo chamber, complete with a weird echo (I forgot to mention the weird echo!) and microphone feedback.

But what was supposed to be the launch was incredible. Usually when Musk has a launch go this badly, somebody could get hurt, and the people nearby have to deal with smoldering debris. At least that did not happen here. It was like an experimental high-concept symphony: governor and billionaire, silent for 20 minutes, with hold music. For so long, Twitter has been failing to work in a way that has made people upset. But this time Twitter failed in a way that brought people delight. I, for one, cherished it.